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California lawmakers spending spring break in Poland, Taiwan

March 27, 2013|By Patrick McGreevy
  • The Taipei skyline in Taiwan.
The Taipei skyline in Taiwan. (Chiang Ying-ying / AP )

If it’s spring break for the California Legislature, that means lawmakers are putting their passports to use.

This week, 15 legislators are off on fact-finding trips to Poland and Taiwan paid for by outside groups.

The trip to Eastern Europe is sponsored by the California Foundation on the Environment and the Economy, which is bankrolled by groups lobbying the Legislature, including PG&E, Chevron, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and Southern California Edison, among others.

The delegation to Poland includes Senate Republican leader Robert Huff of Diamond Bar and Sen. Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens) and Assemblymen Travis Allen (R-Huntington Beach), Steven Bradford (D-Gardena), Henry Perea (D-Fresno) and Bob Wieckowski (D-Fremont).

The trip includes visits to Warsaw, Krakow and Konin, according to P.J. Johnston, a spokesman for the foundation.

"This rapidly changing, rising economic star of Eastern Europe is an excellent laboratory for a variety of energy technologies, market mechanisms and regulatory designs," Johnston said to explain what California officials hope to study.

 Meanwhile, Assembly Republican leader Connie Conway of Tulare is among a nine-person legislative delegation to Taiwan whose itinerary includes meetings with government officials involving trade and culture, according to a report by the Focus Taiwan News Channel.

"With Taiwan serving as California’s seventh-largest global trading partner, it is important to strengthen cultural and economic ties," said Sabrina Lockhart, a spokeswoman for Conway.

The Poland trip, paid for by a nonprofit bankrolled by special interests, was criticized by Phillip Ung, policy advocate for California Common Cause.

"These trips are meant to be for fact-finding purposes, but what they have mutated into lobbying junkets," Ung said in a statement. He said they are "trips where lobbyists can get exclusive time with public officials, 'educate' them on issues important to their special interests, and wine, dine, and board them without being subject to the gift limits."

Ung said such trips are banned for federal officials and "we think it’s past the time for California to do so also."

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patrick.mcgreevy@latimes.com


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